Dealing with rejection

Even though rejection is one of those unfortunate realities of life, there are times when the sting is so sharp that the reaction can be inappropriate and unhealthy, leading one to resort to the public humiliation of the person responsible.

We all hate rejection, and I’m sure many can identify a time of struggles with a devastating rejection. It could have been one that altered your mood and took you on an emotional roller-coaster of desperate sadness, dejection, and anger. The sort of rejection that continually played on your mind no matter how hard you tried to distract your thoughts, that drew you to tears as it slowly chipped away at your self-esteem. One where, in addition to feeling void and despondent you were also ashamed and afraid, and though you longed to confide in someone, you hesitated to do so because you felt betrayed with a floundering trust in others.

Sometimes a rejection can cut so deeply that it’s almost impossible not to dwell on it, and become self-critical. You ruminate and replay the scenario over and over in your head, all the while conjuring up feelings of frustration and resentment, and oftentimes secretly daydreaming and plotting a vengeful act that deep down inside you know you don’t have the courage do, but from which you get a sense of satisfaction. Having said that, judging from the proliferation of unbecoming social media revenge posts it seems that there are a lot of people who are so pained by rejection that they carry out their vengeful fantasies.

Some handle rejection with grace, experiencing it as part of life’s rich tapestry of jumbled, frayed, disappointing and confusing actualities. While for others the hurt penetrates deeply, and they succumb to the anger that boils over and manoeuvres through their body.

In fact, research shows that there is a relationship between anger and aggression as a direct response to rejection, such as the case of John Neuman Jnr who upon being dismissed returned to his workplace and shot five of his colleagues.

There is no escaping rejection, and every person will encounter it in some form during their lifetime. Whether it is being jilted by a lover, being turned down for a job, ostracised by family members, unfriended on social media, not receiving favourable responses to an online dating profile, being excluded from an event, or not being invited to an engagement. Whatever the situation, even the politest rejections have the potential to knock your confidence.

Can you imagine how it must feel to be rejected on a wider societal level? When the rejection is perpetrated by a wide section of society just because ignorance and unwarranted social or cultural stigma is endorsed and encouraged.

For some people the pain of being publicly rejected by peers, community, and society is their lived day to day reality. Whether you see it or not, be assured that there are many people with physical or psycho-social disabilities who because of negative stereotypes continue to be treated like second class citizens, they are avoided and ignored, their opinions undervalued, and strangers think that it is ok to insult and abuse them.

As human beings, we all have an inherent desire to belong, to be loved, needed and accepted, so it’s only natural that the emotional and psychological pain social rejection elicits can leave a bitterness, a fear and a dispiritedness. Dr Nathan DeWall – psychologist explains in his research that “Social rejection increases anger, anxiety, depression, jealousy and sadness. It reduces performance on difficult intellectual tasks, and can also contribute to aggression and poor impulse control”. Hence, it can worsen health challenges and cause considerable anguish.

While we may not be able to control rejection, and know that it’s not easy to handle – it hurts, it impacts on well-being, and sometimes it can cause inappropriate reactions. But the good news is that you can control the way in which you respond by building resilience and self-esteem; treating yourself with compassion; remembering and acknowledging the positives; focusing on existing social networks where you are appreciated, loved and valued; and giving meditation or mindfulness a go.

Dr Yansie Rolston FRSA is a UK based disability and mental health specialist advisor. She is a social strategist and trainer who works internationally at various levels of government, business and civil society.  Contact her at

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